Southeast’s Alaska commercial troll fleet came up well short of the targeted catch of king salmon in a nine day opening early this month.

The target number was over 98-thousand chinook in the first summer opening July 1st through the ninth. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says the actual catch was just over 61-thousand. Fish and Game’s regional troll biologist Pattie Skannes said catch rates dropped off after the first week of fishing. “When people came in from their first trip the averages were really pretty high,” Skannes said. “They were averaging 20 per boat per day. And by the time they came in from a second trip, it went down to maybe 15 or 16 per boat per day on the average. And then it seemed to drop off pretty steeply after that. We heard some reports but we didn’t have a lot of landings until it was all over to indicate just how much it did drop. We came in well short of our target as it turns out and those fish will be targeted in the next opening which begins sometime in August.”

KFSK file photo

As catch rates dropped, so did the number of trollers out fishing. Skannes says quite a few permit holders did not fish the full nine day opening “Some quit early because their catch rates fell. Others left and went to target chum in West Behm canal. And still others I think just decided it wasn’t worth staying out and maybe switched to a different sort of fishery,” Skannes said.

Trollers have flocked to West Behm Canal near Ketchikan chasing hatchery chums produced by the Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association. The troll harvest there in late July totaled 300-thousand dogs, with the fleet averaging 150 chum per landing.

Average troll prices this summer are $3.48 a pound for king salmon, a $1.36 for coho and 82 cents a pound for chum. Skannes says troll fishing for coho has started out well. “Catch rates are above average. The fish are small but they’re reported to be of very good quality. We’ve had a lot of reports of a good supply of feed, people report a lot of needlefish. So I think it’s going to be a good coho year.”

Fish and Game is projecting the troll fleet will catch two point one million wild coho this summer and projects Southeast’s overall return will hit three point eight million silvers. Trolling will close sometime next month to allow cohos to make it back to streams on the inside waters. Then Fish and Game will have another king opening targeting the remaining wild kings allowed under the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada.